As our world continues to be guided by both the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic and the movement for racial justice, the guiding principles that are driving Outward Bound California remain and have adapted to reflect our persistent commitment to equity.
It is our goal to:
Prioritize the physical and emotional safety of our students and staff first and foremost.
Remain transparent with our community and stakeholders about the impact of the Coronavirus on programming,
Continue to move forward in evaluating inequitable systems and dominant culture in our organization for our staff and students of color and other non-dominant identities.
Monitor OBCA’s available funds throughout this crisis to ensure we are prepared and ready to serve our communities when it is safe to do so.
Minimize the impact of the pandemic on staff as much as possible.
Provide listening sessions and affinity spaces for staff of color to acknowledge their emotional labor and the disproportionate ways in which their communities are being affected by systemic racism and the pandemic.
Our teams have been hard at work producing a lengthy and thorough plan to resume programming in the time of COVID. While we have assessed it from every angle, Covid-19 is unpredictable and may prevent us from running courses at any point, up to and including while students are on course. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority at OBCA as we carefully monitor the evolving situation and do our best to serve students again this summer and fall.
Prior to resuming programming, our program teams and Director of Program & Safety worked closely with Outward Bound USA to clearly define a plan outlining safety guidelines and procedures that prioritize safety and mitigate risk. OBCA instructors recently completed an all instructor expedition where they tested these new safety systems prior to working directly with our students. You can read about some of our Covid-19 safety practices here. Based on the feedback from this staff learning expedition, OBCA is evaluating the following three areas of concern:
The response of local and state governments as positive Covid-19 cases rise in the counties we operate in, as well as across California. We adapted our scheduled programming to prioritize students within California to mitigate further travel restrictions between regions and state-mandated quarantines upon entering or exiting certain states. We are also watching the emergency services in the area, as we rely on their support for students and staff in the field.
Test result timelines are inconsistent. We are requiring that a test will be taken and a negative result will be provided within 72 hours of the beginning of course to increase the reliability of the result. Many families have expressed concerns that their students will not be able to fulfill this OBUSA requirement and our staff have experienced issues with longer than expected test result wait times, some up to 9 days. We are continuing to explore options for addressing this issue with OBUSA and will be in touch as we have more information to share.
Our instructors have indicated concerns about the ability to adequately physically distance while on course. Because testing is not 100% accurate, we need to have multiple layers of prevention in place to minimize the risk of exposure to our staff and students.
We are working with our local and national safety committees to evaluate these barriers and come up with solutions, and are taking the safety of our staff and students into the utmost consideration in our decision whether to move forward with programming.
It is through the safe resumption of programs that we will once again work toward our vision of an inclusive outdoor community by creating resilient and compassionate individuals for a more resilient and compassionate world. This seems more important than ever as the outdoor industry is awakening to the systemic racism and bias to Black, Indigenous, and people of color alongside other marginalized identities in the outdoors.
To continue to support our vision and the hard work that goes into reimagining programs, consider joining our Resilience Campaign. We are so thankful to our community for your ongoing and sustaining support!
Message from 5/4/20
To our community of students, partners, staff, supporters, and families,
The depth of change in our world over the last few weeks cannot be understated. Thank you to those on the frontlines, fighting for the health of our communities. Like so many others, Outward Bound California is experiencing hardship unlike any we have weathered before.
Outward Bound exists to bring people together, build connection, to facilitate growth through challenge. Our programs have prepared our alumni and staff to lead with compassion in crisis and we can’t wait to get back to this needed work. While the length of this expedition is unknown, we are leaning into the wind, prepared to weather the storm.
OBCA’s Senior Leadership Team and Board of Directors have identified the below priorities to help guide us during this time.
Here are a few actions we have taken using these guiding priorities:
For the community:
We are talking to our staff and students about the threat of xenophobia in the context of COVID-19. OBCA stands against misinformation and bias that results in discriminatory and harmful behavior. We ask our community to be vocal and vigilant as it arises.
Outward Bound USA has convened a national task force to manage our response and mitigate exposure risk for staff and students, as well as coordinate our part in reducing community spread. See our general updates here.
We continually discuss the financial implications of this pandemic and create contingency plans to support business continuity in 2020. It is our priority to continue to change lives through challenge and discovery and to open access to outdoor spaces to youth, adults, and veterans.
For our students & partners:
For students enrolling in 2020 courses, we have softened our cancellation policy to align with domestic and international response to Covid-19. We will offer course credit toward 2021 programming for those who are prevented from attending their course due to COVID-19-related illness or externally-imposed travel restrictions. For more information, please visit our FAQs.
All students and staff were removed from programs by March 21st. At this time, all programming has been halted through June 30th as we continue to assess the public health situation.
We are in daily communication with schools or partners scheduled to have courses in the coming months, many of whom have canceled due to school closures. We are rescheduling where possible and have adjusted our cancellation policy to support last-minute shifts.
For our staff:
We are currently practicing an organization-wide remote work policy until further notice, in line with Shelter-in-Place orders issued by local and state governments.
As a result of receiving funds through the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP), the administrative staff at OBCA has returned to full staffing capacity for the duration of the PPP funding.
We continue to provide those in staff housing with rent forgiveness. Other relief needs to support our staff are currently being assessed.
We are committed to keeping our community of alumni, parents, supporters, and partners, engaged in this process. When we emerge from this crisis with the support of our community, we will be ready to serve a weary populace that hungers for connection and healing outside. Take care of yourselves, your families, and loved ones. Please say thank you to all the healthcare and service workers around you and treat all beings with compassion, above all else.
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